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All about EV6

OVER THE LAST month or so, you might have caught a glimpse of a vehicle (chances are it was on EDSA headed for Manila, or from Manila to BGC), and you just couldn’t make out what it was.

That was exactly what happened to several traffic enforcers, who had the eagle eyes to spot its plate number and realize that it was supposed to be “coding” the day STAR Motoring Editor Manny de los Reyes and myself took the out for a preview. We were among a batch of media and online content creators given the key fob to the Kia EV6 — set to be the first all-electric vehicle from the Korean brand to make it to the Philippines.

The first MMDA enforcer was a rather brash fellow on the corner of Taft and EDSA who, upon being told that it was an electric vehicle, chose to go with the line, “Wala pang memo sa ’min tungkol diyan (We haven’t received the memo about it).” Even a schoolkid would know, of course, that electric vehicles in all iterations and stripes, under the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 11697 (more commonly known as the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act or EVIDA, which lapsed into law in the second quarter of last year), are exempt from the longstanding UVVRP or Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program.

The enforcer looked irritated after delivering his spiel, but clearly knew we were in the right. He waved us off and, voila, another enforcer waved to us like an eager K-pop fan. Repeat explanation, ad nauseam. In the absence of identifying plates devoted to electrified vehicles, I suppose this will be the lot of all you hybrid/EV owners out there, and I commiserate.

But the tide has begun to turn. One could argue that, for the first time, government, legislature, and the private sector are finally coming together in a meaningful way — especially with the recent approval of the zero tariff on electric vehicles. So, obstinate traffic enforcers aside, prospects are on the up and up for EVs and their fans.

I mean, one gander at the Kia EV6 should imbue you with all the positive vibes you need. Sleek, svelte, and unique, the EV6, first and foremost, looks good — the true face of the future for Kia and many brands on that inevitable path to electrification.

Kia is positioning the EV6 as a crossover, and it certainly has the heft to justify this classification as a sedan/SUV. Its large wheelbase which, at 2,900mm is even longer than the Sorento’s 2,815mm, translates nicely to great space for passengers within. I tried sitting in the rear bench, and it gives oodles of wiggle room — especially since it’s bereft of a hump on the floor to accommodate the traditional propeller shaft. Manny said he thinks the EV6 looks like a sport wagon like the five-door Mazda 3, or a “sporty five-door hatchback.”

Providing grunt is a 77.4-kWh lithium-ion-battery-powered permanent magnet synchronous motor which submits 229ps and 350Nm. Kia Philippines provides the relevant numbers for charging, saying that “normal AC (charging)” from 10% to full via an 11-kW charger will take seven hours and 20 minutes. Using a 50-kW DC fast charger, the battery will get from 10% to 80% in 73 minutes; an even more powerful 350-kW charger will get you to this state in a mere 18 minutes. The caveat though is that you should use these high-capacity DC chargers sparingly as they will degrade your battery more quickly when employed often.

The sole variant, to be made available to the public on March 21, is the EV6 GT Line. Expected to be priced below P4 million, the vehicle is being positioned for executives. This is a good idea and makes perfect sense for now, since EVs are still nascent — as our interviewee on the next page so aptly put it. Because of the price premium over conventional internal-combustion-engine-powered options, not to mention EV misconceptions and anxieties, EVs (pure EVs, as opposed to hybrids) are largely the domain of early adopters.

Manny agrees with the choice of target market. “It’s wheelbase length makes it the same or even longer than some mid-size executive sedans,” he said. “It’s a decent and very comfortable — even as a chauffeur-driven car.”

Speaking driving and being driven, Manny and I took turns at the wheel and in the front passenger seat, and we came away with similar impressions. We found the suspension system firm, but not harsh. “It’s a trademark of most European cars,” he said. And therein also lies one of the qualities of this Kia — it looks like a Euro vehicle, and that’s a good thing. It’s not luxurious, but certainly premium, Manny added. Indeed, you don’t get a feeling that you’re being shortchanged in terms of build quality and materials used. Kia engineers and designers definitely put a lot of thought to conjuring up the EV6.

I’ll add “futuristic” to the mix. An unbroken upright floating screen, which houses the 12.3-inch all-digital multi-function display and an instrument cluster, juts up from a textured dash. A single-louver A/C vent design runs underneath from the right-center vent to the passenger-side vent. Most everything can be controlled via the infotainment screen; no surprise there. But what may surprise drivers is the lack of a traditional gear shifter, which is supplanted by a rather unsexy but straightforward rotary knob. The engine, er, motor on-off button lies to its north.

Manny commented on how it was also the first time he saw a one-piece floormat the runs from the driver’s side to the front passenger’s. This underscores how much legroom is available for front occupants as well.

Back to driving impressions, we expected loads of torque on demand (this being an EV, after all), and the EV6 did not disappoint. But it’s still a little weird to not feel any harshness even when you heavy-foot the throttle. What NVH?

As we savored the EV6 experience, I also took the chance to direct some salient questions to our longtime STAR Motoring editor and BusinessWorld columnist. Is the country truly ready for electrification, I posed. “I think the prevailing issue is still range anxiety for a lot of EV buyers or prospective EV buyers. Having driven (the EV6) from Taguig to Manila and back, we only consumed less than 10% battery. It should have enough to bring it to Baguio and charge once you get there, then drive back.”

EV ownership is “really easy,” he added. “You just have to be a little more careful with the planning of your driving, but as far as running out of battery juice is concerned, there really should not be any problem — especially if you use it for the day-to-day office commute. It can do Monday to Friday straight without any charging at all.”

Okay, so if we can comfortably shelve range anxiety, are EVs are at a level where more people can comfortably buy them? “That’s the second issue. I would even put that issue first because the cost is still high,” replied Manny. “Then again, the EV6 in particular is not exactly an entry-level vehicle; it’s actually a premium one. The price comes with it and it’s not just because the technology is new. Yes, it’s expensive, but as far as the EV6 is concerned, it reflects the premium-ness of the vehicle.

“The entry-level EVs in the market now — the ones costing between P1.7 and P1.9 million are the ones that could ideally be priced lower; even the hybrids. They shouldn’t be costing that much more than their ICE-powered counterparts. The premium should be minimal — not P300,000 or half a million more.”

True. After all, the natural tendency for car buyers is to look across models and brands where they can get the most bang for their buck. The price tag for a sedan EV might, say, be even more than a mid-size, ICE-powered SUV. People will most likely go for the SUV.

“I would say that a government subsidy would be beneficial, especially for the non-luxury, non-premium hybrids and EVs to enable more of the market to experience the benefits of this new technology,” Manny continued. “I think that’s the best start because they did it in so many other markets abroad and it helped put more hybrids and EVs into the hands of new customers and drivers.

When we arrived back in Taguig, with myself at the wheel, there was still 409 km of charge on the EV6. Its recuperative properties, like in other EVs, allow for the transformation of kinetic energy developed when the vehicle is coasting or when braking, back into electricity which is used to charge the battery. Thus, when you look at the displayed range, that is only a nominal, real-time snapshot which can change depending on your driving habit or the terrain.

Since Kia Philippines teased the public with an EV6 preview at the Philippine International Motor Show last year, I’ve waited to get my hands on its wheel. Now that I’ve done so and seen the electric vehicle’s breadth of values, I can’t wait to know the final price tag — just as I can’t wait for more traffic enforcers to know what EVs are about.

Hope you finally got the memo, bud.

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